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Push back on push-out

Bill Dockery
Features columnist

African-American children in the Knox County school system are suspended from school almost three times more often than their white fellow students.

And that rate has not changed since 2007, when a community task force recommended ways to fix the disparities in discipline. State statistics reported for 2012 show that black Knox County students are still about three times more likely to be suspended than white students, despite the negative results such suspensions will have on their educational and legal futures.

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It’s time to rethink Knoxville elections

Scott Frith
Government/Politics columnist

What if you threw an expensive birthday party for a friend and no one showed up? Would you do the same thing the next year or would you try something different?

Knoxville city elections are coming up this fall. They are expensive and few people vote. Unlike state and county contests, which are held in even-numbered years (2014, 2012, 2010), the city has stand-alone elections in odd-numbered years (2015, 2013, 2011) for offices like mayor, city council and city judge.

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Mark Donaldson: the gift that keeps on giving

Betty Bean
Government/Politics columnist

Former Metropolitan Planning Commission director Mark Donaldson retired in December with a $101,000 severance package (approved in a meeting that you can’t watch online because MPC doesn’t maintain an accessible video archive), but his policies continue to rile neighborhood groups.

Take Ryan and Amber Bradley, who live next door to a former church building on the west end of Cedar Lane and have invested money and sweat equity in their home.

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Lawyers win regardless

Victor Ashe
Government/Politics columnist

If anyone thought the New Year would bring a kinder and more transparent TVA, they were quickly disabused of that notion when TVA rejected the freedom of information request regarding the amount of tax-paid incentives given to a Clinton industry to expand. In fact, TVA even suggests the News Sentinel should seek judicial review.

Hopefully, the News Sentinel accepts the TVA challenge and takes them to federal court. TVA’s most recent top legal counsel was paid $2 million a year. They have minimum regard for fiscal restraint other than the layoff of some 800 employees across the valley while their top employees get literally millions each year. New TVA legal counsel, Sherry Quirk, has had her salary cut back to $675,000 a year (courtesy of taxpayers) if she meets all goals. This still exceeds what 98 percent of East Tennessee attorneys make.

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Miracles on Pennsylvania Avenue

Larry Van Guilder
Government/Politics columnist

Remember the fun Tina Fey had with her Sarah Palin impersonation on “Saturday Night Live?” If you do, you can hardly wait to see what the show does with Joni Ernst.

Ernst is what would happen if Palin and Michele Bachmann conceived a love child. Choosing “Shoeless Joni” to “rebut” the president’s State of the Union address makes as much sense as castrating hogs with bread bags on your feet.

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What happens when the cheering stops?

Marvin West

Real life is not far away.

College football is history for Justin Coleman, Justin Worley, Marlin Lane, Jordan Williams, Jacob Gilliam, Devrin Young, Matt Darr, A.J. Johnson and a few other Volunteers who settled for smaller headlines.

One, two or three may find jobs in the NFL. The others face this sobering question: What now? What happens after the cheering stops, after the crowd has gone home and old jerseys and Adidas shoes are put away? What happens when life replaces fun ‘n games?

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Fire protection ‘hot topic’ in Knox County

Wendy Smith
Government/Politics columnist

There are 86 homes in George Turner’s West Knox subdivision, but not one fire hydrant. His home in Landmark subdivision, off Middlebrook Pike, has doubled in value since he bought it in 2003, and he’s afraid of losing his investment to fire.

It’s a valid concern. According to Turner, a home in the subdivision burned to the ground three years ago. The initial response was slow due to debate over whether the home was in the city or the county, he said, and when a fire truck finally arrived, a hose had to be run across Middlebrook Pike to a hydrant at Weigel’s. By then, the home had burned.

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Work begins at Knoxville Botanical Garden

Betty Bean
Government/Politics columnist

It was a leap of faith, breaking ground for the new entrance and visitors center at the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum before having the entire $1.45 million estimated cost in hand. But the board of directors voted to proceed, banking on the belief that potential donors will step up as they see the impressive new project coming out of the ground, complementing the stacked-stone walls and ancient trees of the former Howell Nursery property.

Board Chair Joan Ashe is optimistic.

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